This is a comment that for some reason I can't seem to post as a response to this thread on the Rick Steve's forum:
I really can't in that neighborhood -
Doug - "Za Za is hardly the Autogrille" - is sort of my point. I think it is comparable - it is a little more dressed up, with a better selection, but that is what I was getting at.
Someone mentioned the Cafeteria Leonardo - this is a great place (and cheap!) as long as you know that you are eating at a "cafeteria". And that is what I mean when I mentioned these other places - they sort of are dressed up cafeterias. It is not fine "dining".
Not trying to be a pain in the neck troll on this, but the sameness and lack of effort in the food here in the center of Florence is a real issue when you spend a lot of time here.
If I was near the market, I would eat there - at Nerbone. Their panino lesso (boiled beef) is one of the best cheap eats in Tuscany. And the rest of their food (again, cafeteria style) is probably better than most every other restaurant in that neighborhood.
Again - this is just my opinion! I grew up in restaurants, my dad ran both the front and back of the house, my one brother is a chef, the other one a cook - it really is about perception, and what YOU like. Unfortunately for me, I can't really afford to eat where I would like in this town often, so I am down to lunches out!
Other lunch bargains around town:
Trattori Anita (near Santa Croce, or behind the Palazzo Vecchio) - 3 course lunch, 8 or 9 euro still I believe. Can be very good to pedestrian, but you are not leaving hungry. Water and wine extra.
Il Brindellone (near Piazza del Carmine) - huge, home style lunch, 3 plates, coffee, water and wine - 9 euro.
A newer one, on Lungarno Corsini, Bistro del Mare - two plates, usually a seafood appetizer and a pasta - 8 or 9 euro.
These are all pranzo veloce - not a la carte - which will run you much more.
Also for reasonale primo piatto at lunch, Il Santo Bevitore (via Santo Spirito), Boccadama (Piazza Santa Croce - a tourist restaurant no doubt but still some great lunches - I had the rigatoni with sausage and black truffle yesterday - AWESOME), and Garbo (also via Santo Spirito) - for a real treat - try Teatro del Sale (near Piazza Sant'Ambrogio) for lunch, or in the same area Il Giova for lunch or dinner, and Semel for panino at lunch.